AN explosion at a Chinese chemicals plant has killed 19 people and injured 12 others.
The blast occurred at a plant owned by Yibin Hengda Science and Technology at an industrial park in Jiangan County, Sichuan Province. The 12 injured people are reportedly in a stable condition. The blast occurred Thursday evening and the resulting fire took around five hours to extinguish.
The site produced chemicals for the food and pharmaceutical industries, according to reports. Beijing News reports that the plant began operations in May and had approval to produce 2,300 t of chemicals per year.
There are conflicting reports over the likely cause of the blast. Firefighters are quoted as saying methanol may have caused it or fuelled it, while government investigators said on Friday they are still seeking the cause.
An eyewitness told Beijing News that he heard seven explosions in ten minutes. Footage from state television channel CCTV showed thick smoke rising from the factory. Pictures of the incident show the three-storey buildings of the site burnt to their steel frames. Reports are that the windows of nearby buildings were shattered by the blast.
China is struggling to regulate industrial safety in the wake of rapid growth. In 2015, 173 people were killed in an explosion at a chemicals site in Tianjin. Chinese government investigators went on to blame mismanagement, corruption and slack government oversight for the accident. As a result, 24 company workers and 25 government officials were given prison sentences.
In 2017, 38,000 people died at work in China, according to government statistics, down 16% year on year.